What Are the Strengths & Weaknesses of Online Primary Data?

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Primary data is data collected for a specific project. When collecting primary data, you are either asking questions or observing behaviours. As a researcher, you do not identify yourself in an observational approach, but observe from a distance or mix with the group undetected.

Conducting surveys requires you to identify yourself and your research topic as you ask pointed questions and record answers. You can conduct online surveys, however, and widen your audience.

Survey Strengths

Internet research is immediate. It is also less expensive and less time-consuming. Survey hosts may also compile your statistical data for you, giving you instant results. Surveys are typically convenient for respondents to use, and they can include photographs or images for visual aids. Your audience has the convenience of answering surveys at their leisure, and you can create surveys that only allow each person to answer it once.

Survey Weaknesses

Internet surveys are limited to only those individuals who have access to the Internet. You may also have difficulty getting your survey to your intended audience with the amount of information and competition online. The survey audience may not want to give you sensitive information over the Internet, including income and spending data. You have no way to contact your respondents unless you ask for personal information, which they may not give. You cannot ask for clarification. You can mail postcards directly to your audience giving them the time, place and website of the survey you want them to fill out. By combining offline and online methods, you can capture more of your target market.

Qualitative Strengths

Qualitative research online includes focus groups, notice boards and communities and forums. You have instant transcripts of individual responses. You also incur lower costs, because you do not have to travel to observe people. You should have a mix of individuals participating -- persons from various racial and socioeconomic strata. People are more forthright online and more candid about sensitive or unpopular topics. If you have a moderator, you can directly interact with people in real time.

Qualitative Weaknesses

You may have to fight dominant people to keep them in check during focus groups and discussions. It may also be difficult to get shy individuals to speak out during the sessions. You want to encourage discussions that come from the main question, but you have to be aware of tangents that change your discussion entirely from your topic. Time constraints may impede your audiences' responses. Your questions must be worded precisely so that you get the information you are looking for. Some online resources, such as notice boards and forums, do not provide immediate feedback, and you may have to wait weeks or months for enough responses to create an adequate sample.